I’d been hearing about this for a while, and now we’ve seen the first episode. It’s good enough that I’ll happily see another. Benedict Cumberbatch is Sherlock Holmes, but the stories are set in present-day London. Martin Freeman, best known as Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit movies, is Dr. Watson. The producers have thought it all out carefully. Of course Holmes would be adept at the use of cell phones and computers and GPS devices. Anything that could help in his investigations would be candy to him. An yet he is so concentrated on matters forensic that he is useless at dealing with other people, casually insulting them, and doesn’t know that the Earth revolves around the sun. (I suspect he’s somewhere on the autistic spectrum, probably Asperger’s Syndrome.) Among the many things I liked were the way his brainstorms were shown, with a lot of special effects like having printing appear on the various things he’s examining on a corpse. He speaks a little fast for me so I’ve missed some dialogue, but have still been able to follow the story. There have been three seasons so far—albeit with only three episodes per season—and a fourth has been green-lighted. I’m looking forward to them all.
First Season. (2010) “A Study in Pink.” A play on the Conan Doyle novel A Study in Scarlet, the first appearance of Holmes and Watson. In the book Watson has just returned from Afghanistan, and so has the new Dr. Watson, from the war, with a cane and a limp. There are many other parallels, but the main story, of four people who have apparently committed suicide but who were actually murder victims, is new. We see Watson first meeting Holmes, and see much of the detective’s methods, including his uncanny ability to deduce amazing things about people in a split second. We are introduced to Sherlock’s older, possibly smarter brother, Mycroft. The name Moriarty is uttered, as the real fiend behind the horrible murders. And, as they say, the game is afoot.
“The Blind Banker” The quality of the writing and acting and filming remain first-rate, but I have to complain about one thing. Near the end Sherlock does something I view as decidedly un-Sherlockian. Watson and his girlfriend are tied to chairs in this long, wide, brick tunnel. Dastardly Chinese have positioned her chair in front of a crossbow, and sand is running out of a bag that is gradually lowering a weight that will pull the trigger. Sherlock appears at the end of the tunnel and takes out two bad guys. Then he gets to the girl … and crouches down behind her to untie her hands!
Sher, Shitlock, knock the fucking chair over! It’s lightweight, and all you have to do is get her out of the way, because the crossbow is in a fixed position. And if you had, you could have avoided the strangler who almost killed you by pulling your scarf around your neck and pulling it. First stupid bit of writing I’ve seen, so I’ll continue, but you guys better watch it.
“The Great Game.” And at last we meet the evil Moriarty. He turns out to be a smallish bloke, capable of freezing your blood when he wants to. He alternates between sing-song, childish taunting, and black rage, and he can go from one to the other in a split second. He has been playing with Sherlock, strapping explosives to innocent victims and then having them read text messages to Holmes, giving him a deadline to solve a mystery or he will blow them up. It’s pretty chilling. Especially at the end, where Watson turns up wearing one of those explosive vests. And at the end … well, the vest is on the floor, laser sights are on Watson and Holmes, Moriarty is in the room, and Sherlock points a gun at the explosives. Hmmm. Moriarty hadn’t counted on that. And let me tell you, I was very glad we were watching this on Amazon Prime and not as it was new, in 2010, because that’s where we leave it until next season. So now, a few minutes later, we can fast-forward to 2011 …
Second Season. (2012) “A Scandal in Belgravia.” An adaptation of the Conan Doyle story “A Scandal in Bohemia.” To no one’s surprise, Holmes doesn’t fire into the explosives, and Moriarty walks away, to bedevil Sherlock another day. This time it is in the person of Irene Adler (played by the wickedly beautiful Lara Pulver), who enters the lives of Holmes and Watson naked but for a pair of high heels. All through this story Holmes is pestered by his brother, Mycroft, to solve the mystery of a vanished memory stick with all sorts of nasty stuff on it. In the penultimate scenes we seem to learn that Adler, who seems to matter more to Sherlock than anyone but Watson, is dead, beheaded in Pakistan. But that can’t be so, as we know she appears in more episodes, and was important to the original Holmes. And indeed … well, suffice it to say that Sherlock comes to the rescue. Did you expect anything less?
“The Hounds of Baskerville.” Pretty obvious which story was the inspiration for this one. It’s probably the most famous Holmes story, because of the 1939 movie starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, the movie that established for most of us what Holmes and Watson looked like and acted. I’d have to say this was the least convincing episode so far. It’s not bad, it just doesn’t quite measure up to the brilliance of the others. There is supposed to be this gigantic hound, genetically engineered at a secret base called Baskerville. The solution is not quite satisfying.
“The Reichenbach Fall.” Holy deerstalker hat! Sherlock is dead! I saw him, he was standing on the roof of a three- or four-story building (or two- or three-, I guess, since the Brits call the second floor the first floor) and he was talking to Watson on the mobile phone, and he jumped off, right in front of us. He lay crumpled on the pavement, blood all over him, and there’s just no way he could have survived … hey, wait a minute. There he is in the graveyard, watching Watson pay his final respects. And there’s another season of this show still to run, and it’s not called Watson …
The title is inspired by “The Final Problem,” in which Conan Doyle hoped to kill off his pesky detective, who he felt was taking him away from his more serious work … which, sorry to say, Sir Arthur, seems to be entirely forgotten these days, while Holmes lives on. He lives because the public wasn’t having it, they demanded more Holmes stories. So the writer had to figure out a way to bring him back from what seemed to be his death, locked in mortal combat with Moriarty as they both fell to their deaths over the Reichenbach Falls. Here, the devious Moriarty has fixed it so it seems that Holmes faked all his great cases, and he, Moriarty, is really just an actor Holmes hired to pretend to be a criminal mastermind. It’s all working, the press and the public has turned against the fraud. And Moriarty has arranged it so that if Sherlock doesn’t jump, Mrs. Hudson, Lestrade, and Watson will be terminated by cold-blooded killers he has hired. So Sherlock has to jump. I will eagerly await the secret of how he pulled it off. But I have to warn the writers: It better be good.